THE state of Michigan is justly proud of the part that it has played in the development of broadcasting, for in the summer of 1920 Station WWJ of Detroit took the lead in radio broadcasting by establishing the first station to broadcast regularly scheduled programs. The Extension Division of the University was prompt to enter the educational broadcasting field; members of the faculty went to Detroit in 1922 to broadcast over WWJ.
In 1923 the Department of Electrical Engineering constructed a small station, and on January 14, 1924, a federal license was issued, authorizing the operating of this equipment on 1,070 kilocycles, with 200 watts' power, for "unlimited" time. The call letters were WCBC. Ten months later the station's wave length was shifted to 1,310 kilocycles.
The equipment of this station was experimental and inefficient. Consequently a request was made to the Regents for $20,000 with which to build a broadcasting station and for an early appropriation of $3,000 for maintenance. The administrative authorities, believing that the University's broadcasting program could be carried out with less expense through the co-operation of a commercial station which had an established audience, refused the request. As a result, when the station's license expired in June, 1925, no application for renewal was filed, and the station privilege was canceled on October 24.
In the fall of 1925, Edward H. Kraus, Dean of the College of Pharmacy and Dean of the Summer Session, arranged with Station WJR, then owned by the Jewett Radio Corporation, for the broadcasting of twelve one-hour programs from the campus during the University year. Waldo Abbot, Assistant Professor of English, was appointed Director of the Broadcasting Service. The studio in which these programs originated was the top floor of old University Hall, and had been chosen principally because it contained a piano and a rug. As the acoustics were very poor, a tent of painters' dropcloths was constructed within it in order to reduce the reverberation. From this studio, in June, 1927, was broadcast the ninetieth-anniversary program, featuring such well-known members of the faculty as Mortimer E. Cooley, Victor H. Lane, Myra B. Jordan, and Clarence Cook Little.
Broadcasting was continued from this crude studio for three years, until a modern studio was built in Morris Hall, formerly the home of George Sylvester Morris, Professor of Philosophy (see Part VIII: Morris Hall). In this building were constructed an announcer's booth, a studio for ensemble groups, and a large auditorium from which the University Band and Glee Club could broadcast, as well as an office for the director, a mailing room, and a control room. Since 1925, broadcasting from the campus has been continued through the facilities of Station WJR, of Detroit, with the exception of two years when the facilities of Station WWJ were used.
In the fall of 1933 the Broadcasting Service was made a part of the Extension Division. Assistant Professor Waldo Abbot continued as Director of the Broadcasting Service. He was transferred from the Department of English Language and Literature to the Department of Speech and General Linguistics, in which he instituted courses in radio speech, dramatics, Page 352and writing. The functions of the Broadcasting Service were increased to include class instruction, the recording of speech for students and for faculty research, and the making of recordings to be used by the University of Michigan alumni clubs.
The music classes conducted by Joseph E. Maddy, Professor of Radio Music Instruction in the University Extension Service, constitute the University's only direct teaching by radio, the other programs having been designed chiefly to inform and inspire the general listener or to supplement the work of the local teacher.
In addition to the educational programs which were broadcast on the regular band over Station WJR, students of the University Reserve Officers Training Corps, in co-operation with the Department of Electrical Engineering, built a continuous-wave radio-telegraph station in the fall of 1927 and began broadcasts over it. This equipment was granted an experimental license under call letters W8AXZ.
The station was used chiefly for code practice for members of the Signal Corps and for communication with the University expedition to Greenland conducted by Professor William H. Hobbs. The transmitter was made possible by a grant of $100 from the United States Army and a gift of a 250-watt vacuum tube used as the main power amplifier, the latter coming from the General Electric Company. The Department of Electrical Engineering donated the room and the high-voltage motor generator used for power.
With this equipment, communication was maintained directly with the Hobbs expedition. Furthermore, contact was maintained with Bloemfontein, South Africa, messages being exchanged with a branch of the University's observatory situated there (see Part III: Lamont-Hussey Observatory). Contact is also maintained with the University summer camps and expeditions.